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Petrol Company Owner Arraigned Over Alleged N38.2m Fraud, Tax Evasion – EFCC

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The Kaduna State chapter of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused the owner of Najaatu Petroleum Limited, Wasila Musa Ibrahim of money laundering and tax evasion.

In 2020, Ibrahim had reportedly defrauded a company known as Lee Group of a total sum of Thirty-Eight Million, Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N38,200,000). According to the EFCC, the suspect had approached the Lee Group owner with a business proposal to supply the company Diesel and Premium Motor Spirit (petrol).

Using the name of her company, Ibrahim collected the money from the victim and his family members, diverting it for her personal use.

According to the victims, after learning of the fraud, Wasila Ibrahim lied that she had paid the money with one Alhaji Lawan who allegedly absconded and could not be reached.

The suspect was then reported to the antigraft agency, after which investigations revealed that she never did pay the N38.2 million meant to supply petrol. The investigations also led to the discovery that Ibrahim’s company, Najaatu Petroleum Limited had evaded tax payment from January 2013 to 2020.

The suspect arraigned on Thursday before Justice Mohammed Nasir Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Kano was accused of money laundering and tax evasion.

One of the twelve counts charges against the defendant reads: “That you, Wasila Musa Ibrahim “F”, sometime in October 2020, in Kano within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did make a cash payment of the sum of N38,200,000.00 (Thirty-Eight Million and Two Hundred Thousand Naira) only to one Alhaji Lawan for the purchase of five (5) trucks of Diesel without passing through a financial institution and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 16(2) (b) of the same Act.”

The second charge against her by the EFCC also read: “That you, Wasila Musa Ibrahim “F”, Managing Director of Najaatu Petroleum Limited and Najaatu Petroleum Limited sometime in January, 2013 in Kano, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did fail to pay your company income tax for the year 2013 to the Federal Inland Revenue Service and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 9 (1) (a) of the Companies Income Tax Act, 2004 and punishable under Section 82 of the same Act”.

The case was however adjourned after the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges read before the court.

Leading the prosecution counsel, Y. J. Matiyak prayed the court to set a date for the hearing and remand of Ibrahim, while she remained in EFCC custody. However, Ibrahim’s legal counsel, Suleiman Abdulrahim informed the court of a pending application for bail of the defendant, requesting that she be admitted to bail. The prosecution swiftly moved against the request.

The judge, Justice Yunusa, in his ruling adjourned the case and ordered that the defendant remained in EFCC custody until the hearing of her bail application, holding on February 8, 2022.

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Travel

High Altitude, Higher Prices: Domestic Airfares Jump 150%

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Nigerian air travelers are reeling from a dramatic increase in domestic airfares with prices skyrocketing by 150% over the past year.

This surge has forced many passengers to reconsider their travel options, opting for road transport despite the risks involved.

Passengers like Dare Adepoju, who frequently commutes between Lagos and Abuja for business and family visits, have expressed frustration.

“It’s unsustainable,” he lamented. “With flights nearing N200,000 for just an hour, I’m exhausted.”

Social media is abuzz with similar sentiments. Akinloa Adejuwon tweeted about the tough choice between costly flights and unsafe roads, highlighting the dire situation many Nigerians face.

The fare increase is attributed to a limited number of operational aircraft. Airline Operators of Nigeria revealed that many planes are grounded due to maintenance needs and lack of access to foreign exchange for repairs.

The current situation sees airlines like Ibom Air and Air Peace charging up to N238,000 for a one-way ticket between major cities.

This price jump, from about N51,000 last year, reflects the severe challenges the industry faces.

Capt. Roland Iyayi, a senior member of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, pointed to the shortage of aircraft as a primary cause.

“Making forex available to airlines is crucial for resolving this crisis,” he stated.

As the industry grapples with these challenges, passengers continue to hope for relief. The aviation sector’s future hinges on addressing these issues, ensuring safe and affordable travel for all Nigerians.

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Education

Southern States Skeptical as NELFund Disburses First Loans

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The National Education Loan Fund (NELFund) officially launched on Wednesday, a significant step in providing financial aid to students across Nigeria.

However, the initiative faces skepticism, particularly from the southern states.

President Bola Tinubu inaugurated the first tranche of funds, amounting to N32 billion, aimed at empowering Nigerian youth and breaking financial barriers to education.

The NELFund portal has registered 164,000 students, with 103,000 applying for loans.

Despite the promising start, many southern states remain doubtful about the fund’s implementation.

Akintunde Sawyerr, NELFund’s Managing Director, acknowledged these concerns, citing data challenges in verifying indigent applicants as a primary hurdle.

Sawyerr highlighted the lack of comprehensive data needed for credit assessments. The fund relies on bank verification numbers (BVN), National Identification Numbers (NIN), and educational institution data to determine eligibility.

More applications have been received from northern states, where students have shown greater confidence in the fund.

Sawyerr pointed out that skepticism in the south might stem from uncertainty about the program’s viability.

NELFund offers two types of loans: educational fees paid directly to institutions and upkeep loans for student stipends.

The focus is currently on government-owned institutions to ensure a smooth rollout.

President Tinubu emphasized education as a critical tool against poverty and insecurity, linking the nation’s challenges to a lack of educational opportunities.

He reaffirmed his commitment to inclusive growth through education.

As NELFund continues its rollout, efforts to address data issues and regional skepticism will be crucial. By building trust and ensuring transparency, the program aims to support more students nationwide and foster a fairer society.

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Travel

UAE Lifts Visa Ban on Nigerians, Introduces N640,000 Non-Refundable Application Fee

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has officially lifted the visa ban imposed on Nigerian passport holders, effective July 15.

However, this positive move comes with a substantial caveat—a new non-refundable visa application fee of N640,000.

The announcement, made following bilateral discussions between Nigerian and UAE authorities, ends a prolonged period of restricted travel between the two nations due to diplomatic disputes and financial issues.

New Visa Regulations

Under the new guidelines set forth by the UAE government, Nigerian passport holders seeking to travel to the Emirates must adhere to several stringent requirements:

  1. Application Fee: Applicants are required to pay a non-refundable fee of N640,000 for visa processing. This fee represents a significant increase compared to the previous $100 fee before the ban.
  2. Document Verification Number (DVN): Before applying for a visa, applicants must obtain a Document Verification Number (DVN). This number is valid for only 14 days from issuance or until the visa application is processed, whichever comes first.
  3. Application Process: The application process for UAE visas remains stringent, emphasizing the importance of meeting all specified criteria to enhance the chances of approval.

Public Reaction and Outcry

The introduction of the N640,000 visa application fee has sparked widespread criticism and public outcry among Nigerians, particularly on social media platforms. Many have expressed their discontent, labeling the new fee as exorbitant and financially burdensome, especially in light of economic challenges facing the country.

Social media users have taken to various platforms to voice their concerns:

  • @firstladyship: “It is obvious the UAE don’t want Nigerians. They reluctantly unbanned the Nigerian passport, but slammed a hefty N640,000 on Nigerians. Guess what? The money is nonrefundable & has expiration date. This is see finish.”
  • @Peco3D: “This is just extortion in fine words. Shameless.”
  • @Comr_lucky1: “This is exploitation and shameful if allowed by Nigeria government.”

Government Response

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation, announced the lifting of the visa ban and emphasized that Nigerian passport holders are now eligible to apply for visas to the UAE.

The government has acknowledged the concerns raised by citizens and assured them of continued engagement to address the issue.

Background

The UAE had imposed the visa ban on Nigeria approximately two years ago amid diplomatic tensions and financial disputes.

Efforts to resolve these issues included discussions and negotiations between the Nigerian and UAE governments, leading to the recent breakthrough in visa restrictions.

Despite the imposition of the N640,000 visa fee, the lifting of the ban represents a step forward in diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the UAE, potentially paving the way for enhanced bilateral cooperation and economic ties.

As Nigerian travelers navigate these new visa regulations, reactions continue to pour in, reflecting the broader impact of international relations on individual mobility and economic opportunities.

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